Texas Catholic Voice Mar. 13, 2023

In this issue of the Texas Catholic Voice:

  • Parental choice prioritized ...
  • Bills in hearing this week ...
  • Pope Francis' tenth anniversary ...
  • And more!

A Message from Jennifer Allmon, Executive Director

Last week we offered two events for parents interested in increasing parental choice in education. On Monday in Killeen families attended a presentation at St. Joseph Catholic Church on the bishops’ priorities for school choice and how to engage their legislators to vote for parental choice programs.  One young mother shared her desire to choose an alternative to public school but lacked the resources to afford tuition and cover basic needs, such as rent, and another parent shared the considerable costs of homeschooling.  

On Tuesday morning, a group of parents and clergy from the Brownsville Diocese joined us for breakfast to discuss parental choice with their legislators. We are grateful to former Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr. for attending and rallying the troops. The parents shared what it would mean to them and other families in the Rio Grande Valley if they could choose the best educational environment for their children, without having to make a substantial financial sacrifice. These personal stories from Killeen to the Valley are most important in influencing legislators.  

We are grateful to Rep. Terry Canales, Rep. Erin Gamez, Rep. Bobby Guerra, Rep. Ryan Guillen,  Rep. Oscar Longoria, Rep. Janie Lopez, and Senators  Chuy Hinojosa and Morgan LaMantia for meeting with us. 

Thanks, too, for the enthusiastic support of Father Greg Labus, pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Edinburgh, whose idea it was to host the breakfast, as well as Father Derlis Garcia, director of Pro-Life Ministry for the Brownsville Diocese; Father Alex Flores, pastor of St. Anthony Catholic Church in Harlingen; and Father Eduardo Ortega, pastor of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Rio Grande City. 

Also on Tuesday, the mariachi bands from Rio Grande City High School and Grulla High School gave an impressive performance in the Capitol rotunda. Father Eduardo Ortega, who attended the parental choice breakfast, stayed to greet the students and the superintendent of Rio Grande Grulla ISD to show his support for them, demonstrating how the Church supports all options that allow children to flourish. 

Priority Parental Choice Bills Filed! 

Parental choice in education will certainly be one of the most intense topics of the upcoming of the 88th legislative session. This week there were many bills filed to provide parents with more educational options. The bishops have always supported parental choice in education while recognizing that when funding or capacity is limited it is important to exercise the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable to ensure those with greatest need are prioritized.   

We are grateful to see so many authors filing bills to improve parental choice in education in Texas. Our staff has been working hard to read and analyze the many bills filed. We are excited that most of the bills align with the bishops’ priorities, and we are working with individual bill authors whose bills need improvement so we can offer more rigorous support once they make some simple corrections. 

In the chart linked here we have outlined the legislation that we are supporting at this point, including those we are supporting because of anticipated improvements. If a bill is missing from the chart, it’s likely that we  simply need more time to review the language, do a deeper analysis and have more conversations with bill authors. We are optimistic that whatever legislation goes forward will be transformational for families in Texas. 

Bills in Committee March 13-17 

You may notice there are typically more House bills in our weekly update than Senate bills. This is due to the difference in posting rules. The House requires a five-day advance notice. The Senate requires a 24-hour advance notice, so we often don’t have as much notice for those hearings. Be sure to sign up for the Texas Catholic Advocacy Network to receive action alerts for public policy efforts and be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for breaking news! 

Senate State Affairs Committee, Monday at 10:30 A.M.  

SB 15 by Sen. Mayes Middleton requires intercollegiate athletic competitions to be based on the student’s biological sex. The TCCB supports this bill to ensure fairness in college sports. 

House Select on Youth Health & Safety, Monday at 2:30 P.M. 

HB 195 by Rep. Mary Gonzalez requires inclusion of accommodations during a disaster or emergency situation in an IEP or 504 plan. The TCCB supports this bill to assure that emergency plans in schools account for the special needs of those with disabilities. 

HB 473 by Rep. Lacey Hull requires a school to include parents in a threat assessment of a student. The TCCB supports this bill to provide greater engagement by parents in assessments of student safety. 

HB 828 by Rep. Harold Dutton raises the age of criminal responsibility from 17 to 18 years old. The TCCB supports this bill to rehabilitate juvenile offenders. 

HB 1157 by Rep. Jose Lozano allows excused absences from public school for mental health appointments. The TCCB supports this bill to recognize the importance of mental health care. 

House Human Services, Tuesday at 8:00 A.M. 

HB 637 by Rep. Ernest Bailes provides permanency care assistance payments to foster care children after their 18th birthday so long as they are attending high school. The TCCB supports this bill to support children aging out of foster care. 

House Public Education, Tuesday at 8:00 A.M. 

HB 890 by Rep. Keith Bell requires a board of trustees of a school district to improve the grievance process. The TCCB supports this bill to provide a stronger process for grievances to be heard and resolved in public schools.   

HB 920 by Rep. Stephanie Klick requires the commissioner of state health services to establish an advisory council to examine and review the administration on the campus of a school district or a private school, or an institution of higher education medications for respiratory distress (e.g., albuterol, levalbuterol). The TCCB supports this bill to promote access to respiratory medications in schools.

HB 1212 by Rep. Jacey Jetton allows a note from a parent verifying a student's absence from school to observe a religious holiday sufficient to excuse the absence. The TCCB supports this bill to allow student religious observance. 

HB 1883 by Rep. Salman Bhojani ensures that assessment instruments are not administered on religious holy days. The TCCB supports this bill to allow students of faith greater observance of religious holy days. 

Senate Business and Commerce, Tuesday at 8:30 A.M. 

SB 149 by Rep. Drew Springer limits the authority of a municipality to regulate statewide commerce. The TCCB opposes this bill because the broad definition of "commercial activity" would likely affect the efficacy of payday and auto-title lending ordinances that protect poor and vulnerable Texans.  

House Criminal Jurisprudence, Tuesday at 10:30 A.M. 

HB 1004 by Rep. Matt Shaheen adds a person with a disability to the covered definition of relevant persons in the offenses of trafficking a person and compelling prostitution. The TCCB supports this bill to protect persons with disability from human trafficking.  

HB 1736 by Rep. Jeff Leach improves the law of parties, which allows a person to be held criminally responsible for the actions of another in certain circumstances. The TCCB supports this incremental reform to the law of parties. 

House Homeland Security and Public Safety, Tuesday at 2:00 P.M. 

HB 347 by Rep. Jarvis Johnson requires law enforcement agencies to adopt a written policy regarding the placement of a child who is in the care of a person at the time a person is arrested. The TCCB supports this bill to protect family preservation. 

Senate Education, Wednesday at 9:00 A.M. 

SB 562 by Sen. Kevin Sparks requires a school to include parents in a threat assessment of a student. The TCCB supports this bill to provide greater engagement by parents in assessments of student safety. 

House State Affairs, Wednesday at 10:30 A.M. 

HB 2127 by Rep. Dustin Burrows precludes municipalities or counties from adopting or enforcing an ordinance in a field occupied by provisions of certain codes unless explicitly authorized by statute. The TCCB opposes this bill which would undermine the work of local communities to address local issues, including payday lending ordinances.  

House Corrections, Thursday at 8:00 A.M. 

HB 252 by Rep. Ann Johnson allows someone who successfully completes a specialty court program to petition the court for an order of nondisclosure of criminal history record. The TCCB supports this bill to improve rehabilitation and re-entry of offenders. 

HB 361 by Rep. Senfronia Thompson allows a court placing a defendant on deferred adjudication community supervision to impose conditions that emphasize parent-child unity. The TCCB supports this bill to provide a balance between justice and family preservation in cases where the defendant is the primary caretaker of a child. 

HB 1227 by Rep. Will Metcalf makes possession or promotion of child pornography an offense that is ineligible for community supervision. The TCCB supports this bill to reduce the use of child pornography.  

HB 1743 by Rep. Jeff Leach prepares incarcerated individuals to apply for SNAP benefits in advance of their release so that they may access their SNAP benefits immediately upon release. The TCCB supports this bill to assist offenders with re-entry and promote restorative justice. 

HB 1747 by Rep. Jeff Leach streamlines the licensing review process in occupational licensing. The TCCB supports this bill to support successful reentry to the workforce for a person with a criminal record. 

House Select on Health Care Reform, Thursday at 8:00 A.M. 

HB 12  by Rep. Toni Rose extends Medicaid eligibility to new mothers in Texas to a year after the delivery of their child, significantly increasing the length of time moms can access critical postpartum health coverage.  The TCCB supports this bill to provide mothers with extended post-partum care. 

HB 1599 by Rep. John Bucy allows the HHSC to verify income using eligibility for assistance under a public assistance program (like SNAP) as part of the eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP. The TCCB supports this bill to provide health care to eligible families in Texas. 

Join us, along with Catholics throughout the world, in offering a prayer as Pope Francis celebrates his tenth anniversary as our Holy Father, today, March 13. The Vatican is gathering prayers from around the world for a spiritual bouquet for Pope Francis.

TCCB Advocacy day 2023 STD and training (Instagram Post (Square)) (1)
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Upcoming Executions in Texas

Anibal Canales, Jr., March 29
Ivan Cantu, April 26

We are grateful that a Texas court granted a stay of execution for Andre Thomas this past week. The Texas bishops ask for clemency for everyone on death row and pray for the abolition of the death penalty.  

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Pope Francis' prayer intention for March

For victims of abuse
We pray for those who have suffered harm from members of the Church; may they find within the Church herself a concrete response to their pain and suffering.

Prayer for the Legislature

Please pray for all our public servants and elected officials, including our Governor, Lt. Governor, House Speaker, lawmakers, and their staff, that the Lord may grant them wisdom and prudence to work for the common good of all the people of Texas.

The Texas Catholic Voice is a publication of the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops. For more information, write news@txcatholic.org or call 512-339-9882.